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15 5 Creative Ways to Use Text Messages in Marketing

Text Message Marketing

Ed Yourdon via Flickr

The mobile marketing category is this year’s red-hot topic. Of course, for some businesses mobile and text messages (SMS) are synonymous – and not always in a good way.

 

Anyone that has received a spam text message may view that evil activity as the only use of SMS and that would be a shame. The use of text messaging has skyrocketed. People now use it for basic one to one communication far more frequently than the telephone and this behavior calls for expanded thinking around the topic in general.

SMS may never really be that effective as a pure lead generation tool, like email or direct mail, but it is a very effective and convenient delivery mechanism for customers and prospects seeking specific actions and information. View it in that light and perhaps some creative uses leap to mind.

Newsletter sign-up

Using short code technology, a feature that allows users to text a word to a specific number to receive information, you can allow people to sign-up to your email newsletter. I like this approach because you can put the code on a business card or slide when speaking and make it very easy for people to subscribe with their phone on the spot.

The beauty of this approach is that you can marry mobile technology with your already established email technology and offline tactics and you create a marketing lead without the need to ever send another text to the lead. I’ve used EZTexting for this application

Real time appointments

Services such as salons, dentists and even restaurants can use text to fill gaps in the appointment schedule and offer busy customers the ability to come in now if it works.

This would certainly work for home service providers such as plumbers and window cleaners too. Imagine getting a text saying we could be at your home in thirty minutes.

You could also flip this around and send out a list of open times and let people pick one. A service like Mobivity is very easy to set up for this type of use.

Share your slides

I speak to lots of groups and without fail someone always asks if I’ll share my slides. I have no problem doing this, so I’ve started to set up a short code word for each event and I simply say text “event name” to the code and people get a message that allows them to download the slides on the spot while I’m standing up there in front of them. On top of convenience this still offers up a bit of wow factor for participants.

I’ve also used to this approach to gather instant feedback on a presentation by asking participants to text their thoughts on the event to a short code. TxtWire is another simple service that is very small business friendly

Instant polling

If you’ve ever attended a workshop or seminar that features polling hardware you know how cool it can be for a presenter to ask a question and then have the audience click their handheld controller to vote or make a choice.

The problem is that all those little RF keypads, receiver and software to integrate with your slides can add up to lots of bucks.

A number of web based technologies such as Poll Everywhere have cropped up of late making it very affordable to poll audiences by having them use SMS and their own mobile device.

You ask a question and then offer the responses via short code and watch the results populate your PowerPoint slide. For an event, this technology requires that there is a web connection available, but you can also use this in print or other environments to collect data.

Coupon distribution

Creating membership type levels where people can get special treatment or special announcements is a great way to build community.

You can use SMS to allow people to join your “first mover” club and then routinely send them coupons, gift certificates, special previews, and advanced education and information only available to club members.

You can also simply set up codes where people can request this week’s hot deal or special coupon. A tool like CellIt is a good place to learn more.

Bonus: Group Text

Don’t forget about the wave of group text services that are cropping up as a great way to communicate with your staff, customers, partners and suppliers. The key feature these services offer is that the group text becomes a conversation for all and most allow you to go beyond to text and add images (MMS).

You can create open groups that anyone can join, but I think the real power is in the private, controlled group. I’ve been using GroupMe and think it works well.

11 Are Small Private Social Networks the Next Layer?

As business people get in the habit of participating in online social networks and engaging in social behavior as part of their everyday routine, the next waves of online innovation won’t necessarily come in the form of a Facebook killer or Google launch, as they will in little adaptations of tools and apps that let us do more of what we’ve grown used to doing.

To me, a great case in point is the growing buzz around group texting apps. Group text apps such as GroupMe, Beluga and Disco allow users to form groups that can send and receive text messages in a sort of reply and read all manner. You can think of it like group chat or reply all emails, but on the go and on a mobile device. You can also launch group conference calls from the service. (Right now most are limited to US carriers as sorting out International texting is going to prove trickier.)

For our increasingly mobile world this application fills a couple interesting gaps. Texting with your friends lacks the obvious reply all function, so if you want to tell twelve people what you are doing you have to enter the list each time. Email can get this done, but it’s a little clunkier on the phone and requires folks on the list to sync up with their email. Anyone with text capability on a phone can now participate in the group. (I’m guessing that’s getting to near 100% these days.)

To some degree, Twitter was created with this kind of functionality in mind and I recall people using it like this when it caught fire at SXSW 2007, but then we got all these followers and actually reading a stream fully became impossible, not to mention public.

I think group text apps can add a layer to our increasing habit of social communication, but allow us to create small, private social networks that communicate through our mobile devices. The fact that Facebook recently purchased Beluga and Disco is a Google creation, should be signal enough that this is a growing communication option.

The obvious use, and one that first introduced me to group text apps, is a small tight knit group like a family. My four daughters are grown and spread around the country and through the use of a group text app we routinely strike up impromptu chats and send updates and everyday life kinds of photos that happen on the go and wouldn’t happen if we relied on Facebook.

The business uses of a small, private social network seem increasingly obvious as well.

A group that contained staff members would make it very easy to send alerts, quick updates and even throw out topics for debate while including all in an instant loop that could be captured for later reading. There are other tools that can make this happen as well, but there’s something very instantly participatory about SMS. Departments and far flung teams could create on the go alerts and discussions.

Now, some might bemoan the fact that their phone is now going to start buzzing away with insidious group chatter from the office clown that now has yet another way to show off pictures of his cat, but like all things, you’ll need to manage the tools and create process that works for this to be a viable new communication channel.

What about creating select groups of clients that agree to offer occasional opinions about new marketing initiatives. Or, allowing clients to opt in to your referral group and use the tool to educate them about your referral contest. Or, creating a small, private social network of strategic partners that could share information about potential opportunities and leads exclusively.

Because groups can be created and deleted almost on the fly, group text apps are becoming a huge hit at conferences and events as a way for people to get up to the minute updates on what’s happening now. I’m already seeing people splintering off social networks by location and creating on the fly groups when they travel to a city with friends.

Group text apps are easy to set up and allow the group creator or administrator and participants a great deal of flexibility in managing the group. There are opportunities to create public groups, but it’s the private function that offers the most promise. You can be certain that things like advertising and recommended brand led groups based on your interests are likely monetization options for these free tools, but for now, I think it’s a category worthy of consideration.

Shares some ways that you see using this technology in your business?

6 Weekend Favs January Eight

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from Flickr.


Image credit: Trubble

Good stuff I found this week:

Wunderlist – Free online task management tool that makes handling all those to-dos a lot more visually interesting.

GroupMe – free group text service. Create work or personal groups and then start group chats or send out group notification from an mobile. This is a simple tool that works very well and has lots of applications. It’s just group chat, but on the mobile device.

RSS5000 – this is an iPad RSS reader with a twist. Instead of showing your feeds in text or normal RSS it shows them as the original web pages so you always get the full feed and the images, videos and everything else happening on the post. It uses Google Reader subscription and may be a nice choice for those that like to browse more than simply read.